Colin Kaepernick, Disney Team Up for Series on Racial and Social Injustices
By Andrew Beaton
Colin Kaepernick and Walt Disney Co. have reached a deal that
brings together the activist quarterback and the entertainment
giant to produce content about the racial and social topics
Kaepernick has championed.
The new venture brings together Disney, one of the NFL's biggest
financial partners via its ESPN networks, and Kaepernick, an
outspoken critic of the league. Kaepernick has gone unemployed as a
football player for three years after launching player protests
during the national anthem against police brutality and systemic
The Disney-Kaepernick partnership will include "scripted and
unscripted stories that explore race, social injustice and the
quest for equity," the parties said in a release, and will
"showcase the work of Black and Brown directors and producers." The
content will be available on platforms including ESPN, Hulu and The
Undefeated, the ESPN platform that covers racial and cultural
The deal's first project is a docuseries chronicling
Kaepernick's last five years, when his demonstrations rocked the
country's most popular sports league. Kaepernick, who has been
virtually silent in public about his clashes with the league, will
tell his story from his perspective in the series.
"I look forward to sharing the docuseries on my life story, in
addition to many other culturally impactful projects we are
developing," Kaepernick said in a statement.
In the statement, Disney executive chairman Bob Iger positioned
the deal as part of Disney's ongoing commitment to promoting
diverse content. Last week, Disney said a new visual album from
Beyoncé titled "Black is King" will come out in July on Disney+ in
a project that celebrates Black resilience and culture.
The deal adds to Kaepernick's growing portfolio of business
endeavors at a time when the country has been immersed in protests
against police brutality and systemic racism since George Floyd's
killing. Those are the same issues Kaepernick called attention to
when he protested during the national anthem. Last week, Netflix
announced a scripted series with Kaepernick and filmmaker Ava
DuVernay, covering his high school years. Previously in June,
Kaepernick joined the board of directors of Medium, which partnered
with Kaepernick's publishing arm to "create feature content focused
on race and civil rights in America."
Kaepernick was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers until
2016, the season he started player protests during the national
anthem against social injustices. He has gone unsigned since that
season, and alleged in a since-settled grievance that the NFL and
its 32 teams colluded to keep him unsigned over his outspoken
political views. The settlement was for less than $10 million, The
Wall Street Journal previously reported.
Those protests transformed the NFL into a lightning rod.
Politicians such as President Trump assailed the movement as
unpatriotic, while others praised the peaceful protest. It thrust
the league into years of controversy that was reenergized after
Floyd's killing, when the symbolism of Kaepernick's protest was
salient in the public eye. Kaepernick took a knee to protest police
brutality; Floyd was killed after a police officer placed a knee on
This isn't the first time Kaepernick has paired with a company
that does major business with the NFL. In 2018, Nike Inc. made
Kaepernick the face of a major advertising campaign, and the
parties' triangular relationship has at times been thorny --
including when Nike was caught in the middle of a failed workout
the NFL tried to set up for Kaepernick in 2019.
Disney and the NFL have a substantial relationship that most
notably includes the rights to air Monday Night Football. In a 2011
deal that runs through 2021, ESPN agreed to pay $15.2 billion for
Kaepernick's deal with Disney also reunites it with Jemele Hill,
an outspoken journalist and advocate, into the company's umbrella.
Hill, who now writes for The Atlantic, previously worked at ESPN
for 12 years, but the parties split in 2018 after a rocky period
that included a suspension because of her political outspokenness.
Hill will serve as a producer on the docuseries chronicling
The national uproar over the causes that Kaepernick has spent
years championing has led to renewed calls for a team to sign him.
Although he remains a free agent, the NFL has pivoted with an
energized message on these issues in recent months.
After criticism from players that the league had not done
enough, commissioner Roger Goodell released a jarring video in
which he said the league was wrong and should have listened to its
players earlier. It was the NFL's most forceful call to action yet
on the subject, although critics noted he did not specifically
address Kaepernick in the video.
Write to Andrew Beaton at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 06, 2020 12:15 ET (16:15 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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